Death and Garlic

It all started with one bulb.

He was elderly with no family.  He gave me, direct from his garden, one bulb of garlic with specific directions to separate the bulb into cloves, plant on (exactly) September 4, lightly water throughout winter, and reap the benefits the following summer.

I was a little late on the planting date, but I got it done.  I couldn’t wait to show him my bounty last summer, but was unable.  He killed himself.  He had cancer and couldn’t bear the pain anymore.  He was alone and tired of asking for help.  He left a garden full of lovely vegetables, and a lot of questions never to be answered.

I was just someone he met through a fluke, and I loved listening to his stories.  I looked forward to his visits and flirted with him shamelessly.  He was buried in Arlington Cemetery but no one who knew him attended the service.  It was his greatest pleasure to be recognized as a Veteran.  He bled red, white and blue.  In his youth he’d been a cocky pilot during WWII.

I cried for hours when I was received the call.  If it hadn’t been for my horrific former boss, I would have still been able to be there for him.  She sure wasn’t.  He was just another person for her to use and discard when he quit giving her money.

I used the garlic last summer and saved two bulbs.  I gave one bulb to a friend (with instructions that upon harvesting, she too must pass on good karma and a bulb to be replanted) and separated the remaining bulb into cloves, planted them a little later (sorry Mr. M) than September 4, watered carefully, and again, am reaping the benefits of Mr. M’s generous gift.  I’ll always replant Mr. M’s garlic, and you can bet that every single time I use one of his cloves I say a silent prayer of thanks for knowing, albeit a brief time, this kind gentle man.

Maybe the title of this post should be Living and Garlic. . . .

Thai Seafood Pumpkin Curry

If you know me, you know I love Fall and pumpkins!  Better Half is away at work for a couple of weeks, and I must confess that while he’s away I don’t fix normal dinners for myself.  I’ll eat popcorn, cereal, cake. . . .   I must, absolutely must, cook something decent.  I’m worth it!  Of course, I really want pumpkin bars or something of the sort, but that would be bad.  Very bad.

Pumpkin.  Hum.  I had shrimp in the freezer, along with flounder.  Half a can of frozen red curry paste.  Frozen peppers.  Coconut milk.  See where I’m headed?

This is really not a set recipe, per se, and it’s very forgiving.  I would have used chicken, mushrooms, fresh peppers, bamboo shoots, etc., if I’d had them.   If you don’t have the fish sauce, forget about it!  Same with lime leaves—instead throw in half a lime!  Also, I like my curry more like a soup, so I make mine with a lot of liquid and mix it with the rice.  All I can say is when I was done, I ran my finger around the inside of the bowl and. . . .

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Rainbow Trout with Mushroom Crab Dressing

I love fishing like a fat kid loves cake.  Or, like I love cake.  I love fishing so much it is one of my favorite things to do if I am given a choice.  When fishing I do nothing but concentrate on fishing (well, and not falling down in the river, which I do; a lot…).   Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces that I love the water and fish so much.  When I was a small child there was a yard in our town that had a “water feature” in their front yard.  I would beg my mother to drive by this house so I could see the fish.  I beg Better Half all the time for a “water feature” to which he proclaims (rightly so), “You live on a river.  That’s your water feature.”   He did surprise me one day with my own personal “water feature” by making the pipes connected to our rain gutters lead off the bluff onto rocks he had strategically placed to look like a mini-waterfall.  It’s quite charming and sort of cute (in a weird way).  I’m blessed.  I have a wonderful family and great friends.   I even think the fish like me which is why they jump onto my line!

You may wonder why, if I like fishing so much, I don’t subscribe to the catch and release trend.  I like to eat fish, and I like knowing the food on my plate is local and wild.  Plus, I caught it, I Better Half cleaned it, and I cooked it.  I know it’s fresh.  I believe in the circle of life, and I know overcrowding, be it people or critters, is not good for nature.  If I keep a fish, you can bet your sweet britches I’ll be eating that fish.  Here’s the fresh rainbow trout Better Half and myself caught and put in our pie-holes within three hours of catching.  Now that’s fresh fish!

Rainbow Trout Mushroom Crab Dressing

I’d like to say there’s a recipe, but alas, no.  But, here are instructions.  We had five rainbow trout.  They were relatively small, so no dressed fish, but fillets worked fine.  Better Half cleaned and filleted the trout.  Meanwhile, I sautéed a small amount of diced onion, diced celery, and chopped garlic in butter/olive oil until partially tender.  Then I added about one cup sliced cremini mushrooms and sautéed until everything was tender.  I mixed the veggies with about 8 ounces cooked crabmeat, about two cups fresh breadcrumbs, about ¼ cup melted butter, 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, and put the mixture in the bottom of a buttered casserole pan.  I laid the trout on top,  sprinkled on a few shakes of seafood seasoning, salt and pepper, and then covered them with sliced lemons .  I drizzled olive oil on top and cooked at 350° for about 20 minutes, or until the fish was flaky and cooked in the middle.  Yum.  Now, got catch you some!

Mediterranean Orzo

Simple dinner.  Better Half got home and while he wasn’t feeling too well, I still had yummy fresh lamb chops in the fridge and I wasn’t about to let those lovelies (which I had to buy out of state) waste away.  Also, unfortunately again for Better Half, he is not a big fan of basil or oregano so while this might not have been his cup of tea, too bad because I’m the cook, and I loved it!  The lamb chops were delicious; a simple rub of oregano, pepper, salt, garlic and then grilled approximately three minutes on each side. The orzo was nice and cool; perfect on a hot summer evening.

Mediterranean Orzo

(serves four)

8 ounces orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh diced tomatoes (I used yellow because that’s what I had fresh)
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh (homemade!) feta cheese
Salt/Pepper, to taste
Good
balsamic vinegar

Prepare 8 ounces orzo per package instructions and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.   Toss cold orzo with remaining ingredients, except balsamic vinegar.  Prior to serving, drizzle small amount of balsamic vinegar over top.

It would even be tasty with chopped artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes.  Or, ooh, what about nice, chunky tuna mixed in….  Enjoy!

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Protein, must have protein.  This morning at 2:00 (yes, 2:00 in the morning) I was up with a spoonful of peanut butter in my pie-hole.  I don’t like peanut butter that much.  But the last few days I’ve been really lax in eating which, given my love of food, my body probably appreciated the break!  Nonetheless, I’m not up to cooking a huge meal since Better Half isn’t home, so beans and rice it is.  In honor of Better Half’s imminent arrival home and since he’s not too far from Cuba, I’m cooking Cuban Black Beans and Rice.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

1 pound black beans (cooked per package instructions)
4 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 cup chopped green pepper (mixed colors are great)
1 cup chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 lime, cut in half
½ tablespoon cumin seed
1 jalapeno, sliced crosswise
Salt/Pepper, to taste

About 15 minutes prior to beans and rice being fully cooked, saute onion, peppers, and garlic in olive oil until just soft; add ground cumin, cook for one more minute, and combine mixture with beans.  Stir vinegar into beans.

Plate rice and top with beans.  Squeeze lime halves over entire dish.  Sprinkle cumin seeds and jalapeno slices on top.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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